Have you ever wanted to attend an exhibition opening, a film screening, and a panel discussion all in the same day? Enter the Parsons Festival, the first art and design festival showcasing student and faculty talent across Parsons The New School for Design. Featuring nearly 200 events—exhibitions, thought-provoking public programs, panels, screenings, symposia—the festival will run May 7–23 at locations across campus and the city.
Parsons students are active creators in the world of art and design. That’s why a central focus of the festival is a series of exhibitions celebrating the breadth of thesis work of graduating students in a range of fields: architecture, communication design, design and management, design and technology, environmental studies, fashion, fine arts, illustration, integrated design, interior design, lighting design, photography, product design, transdisciplinary design, and urban design. Because of the volume of work, exhibitions are being mounted both in galleries and in unconventional exhibition spaces—academic and community areas across campus—allowing the festival to be fully integrated into campus life.
The New School News sat down with Radhika Subramaniam, co-organizer of the festival and director of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC), where many of the events are taking place, to talk about what went into putting together this inaugural Parsons Festival.
“We wanted to compress and consolidate the dynamic energy of our end of year experience,” said Subramaniam, “and to invite the public and our neighbors to the thriving environment that is Parsons.” Unlike years past, when exhibitions started as early as April and went through June, the festival format allows students to see their classmates' work free of the stress of mounting their own installations. “We thought it was important for students to be able to see each other’s work, which they simply didn’t have time to do when we held the shows in succession.”
For others at The New School—and in the local community—the festival offers a peek behind the design school curtain. “This is Parsons’ time to open its doors and let everyone see what’s happening inside,” Subramaniam said. “We’re giving the public access to reviews, critiques, and presentations—things that are central to our academic experience but are usually invisible to the public.”
It also offers a new perspective to family members in town for graduation, who have heard a lot about Parsons but have not interacted much with it. “Being on campus amid this buzz and activity will give families a sense of what student life is like here,” Subramaniam said.
The festival's planning has truly been a team effort. “There are people at all levels across Parsons working on this, from creating posters to installing work,” Subramaniam said. And with so much energy invested, the festival stands to be a success, and set a new precedent for year-end celebrations. “We’ve tried many different approaches to end-of-year showcases, and the festival is a new model,” Subramaniam said. “The hope is that this is the first Parsons Festival of many.”
When asked what she found most exciting about the festival in her role as the director of the SJDC galleries, Subramaniam said she was particularly pleased with the opportunity to show work in unconventional places. “I’m always keen to spill out of the gallery and into the public space,” she said. “There are posters on the walls, chair prototypes by the large windows and video presentations throughout the SJDC as well as exhibitions and student installations in the hallways and studios.”
One particularly interesting example of this is the festival “tagging,” the bright yellow dots and shapes placed all over campus to mark the locations of festival events. “We wanted to create a bit of anticipation, to let people know something is coming,” Subramaniam said.
For more information on the Parsons Festival, including a full calendar of events, visit www.newschool.edu/parsonsfestival.